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Man Charged With Sex Assault at West Haven Hotel


West Haven Police have arrested a Stamford man on sexual assault charges after investigating what was reported as a robbery at a local hotel.

Police responded to the Hampton Inn Hotel on Sawmill Road around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday to investigate what was reported as a robbery and have charged Michael Anthony Russell, 25, of Stamford, with first-degree sexual assault and third-degree sexual assault with a firearm.

Police said they recovered a firearm and Russell was held on $100,000 bond.

Photo Credit: West Haven Police

Russian President Vladimir Putin Warns Turkey Over 'War Crime'


Russian President Vladimir Putin used his marathon state of the nation address Thursday to warn Turkey to expect yet more sanctions for downing of one of its warplanes, NBC News reported.

Turkey shot down the Russian aircraft last month after it said the jet crossed from Syrian to Turkish airspace, a claimed denied by Moscow but backed up by the United States.

Putin has already ordered economic sanctions against Turkey, banning imports of some Turkish goods. He used his annual address on Thursday to hint that more was to come.

"If anyone thinks that having committed this awful war crime, the murder of our people, that they are going to get away with tomatoes [one of the Turkish goods banned by Russia] or some restrictions on construction and other sectors, they are sorely mistaken," the Russian leader said. 

Photo Credit: AP

Man Accused of Assaulting Girlfriend in Willimantic


Willimantic police have arrested a man who is accused of assaulting and choking his former girlfriend.

Police said Travis Mills, 32, of Willimantic, choked the woman in her apartment and Police Officer John John and his K-9 partner, Sasa, tracked him down several streets away and took him into custody.
The woman was not seriously injured and refused medical attention.

Mills was charged with violation of a protective order, second-degree burglary, disorderly conduct, third-degree assault and third-degree strangulation.

He is being held at Willimantic Police Headquarters on a $50,000 bond and is due in Danielson Superior Court on Thursday.

Photo Credit: Willimantic Police

Board to Discuss Allowing Armed Police at Community Colleges


The board of regents for state colleges and universities is deciding whether to allow community colleges to hired armed police to patrol their campuses and that is one of the issues the board will discuss during the meeting on Thursday.

The discussion comes one day after another mass shooting. On Wednesday, 14 people were killed and 17 were injured during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. Police said a health inspector is believed to have fired the shots left the event "angry," then returned heavily armed with his wife and unleashed the assault, according to police.

Here in Connecticut, some community colleges already have police patrolling campuses, while others have security officers and Naugatuck Valley Community College is the only one with armed police.

Today’s discussion, which is two years in the making, will be about allowing more trained officers with guns on those campuses and the board of regents will be deciding whether to rescind the existing policy and enact a new resolution.

Board of regents officials said this is not in response to any particular event or shooting. State lawmakers would have to sign off on the new policy if the board approves it and schools would pay for whatever security they decide on.

Carmen Wright, a student at Manchester Community College, said the more the state and schools do to increase or safety, the better.

“The world is getting more and more dangerous, so just being in a safe place and knowing that you’re in a good environment. I think that would be helpful for everybody,” she said. “You know, it’s 7,000 kids who go to school here, adults as well, so I would enjoy it, you know, coming out of my home and knowing I’m safe wherever I go.”

Several students welcome the idea of trained police on campus, especially given recent events.
“It’d be a bit more security, especially with the recent threats, especially in Paris. It would probably make the campus feel more secured,” Ben Chevelier, a Manchester Community College student, said.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

San Bernardino Shooters Had Baby Registry


The young couple suspected of slaughtering 14 people in a mass shooting Wednesday appeared to be living a normal life in suburban California.

Like many expectant parents, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, created an online baby registry this spring. The purported registry at Target listed four items on their wish list — pampers, a car seat, baby wash and safety swabs.

The listing is under Malik's name, mentions the nearby city of Riverside as the address and a baby due date of May 17. NBC News could not immediately verify the registry's authenticity.

The couple has a 6-month-old daughter who was left in the care of her grandmother before the pair allegedly carried out their rampage at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Photo Credit: AP

Man Threatened to “Shoot Up” DMV: Police


State police have arrested a Roxbury man who is accused of posting a threat against the state Department of Motor Vehicles on Facebook.

Police started investigating around 3 a.m. on Dec. 2, after being alerted that Alexander Villarreal, 23, of Roxbury, posted on Facebook that he wanted to “shoot up the DMV,” state police said.

Police took him into custody at his house at 6 a.m. and he surrendered his witnesses, police said.

Villarreal was charged with first-degree threatening, breach of peace and first-degree threatening.

He was held on $100,000 bond, but has been released and is due in court on Jan. 6, 2016.

The attorney representing Villarreal was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

More Mass Shootings in U.S. Than Days This Year


The mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday was the sixth mass shooting to take place this past week. In fact, this year, there have been more mass shootings — defined as incidents in which four or more victims are shot — than days in the calendar year, NBC News reported.

The U.S. has seen 355 mass shootings so far in 2015, according to ShootingTracker.com, which tracks deaths by guns in America. 

The San Bernardino shooting, in which 14 people were killed and 17 others injured, is the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago, which claimed the lives of 26 people. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

America's Gun Business, by the Numbers


With anywhere from 270 million to 310 million guns in the United States, the multibillion-dollar gun industry has come under new scrutiny in light of Wednesday's deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, NBC News reported.

The ATF, in its Annual Firearms Manufacturing Report, said the number of pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns and miscellaneous firearms manufactured in the U.S. in 2013, the latest full year available, was 10,847,792. Of those, four percent, or 433,912, were exported.

A gun owner has on average five firearms, though the top 3 percent of gun owners own more than 25 firearms.

There are 263,223 full-time jobs related to the firearm industry, up from 209,750 in 2012, according the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The estimated overall economic impact of the the firearms and ammo industry in the U.S. is $42.9 billion, the NSSF reported.

But, the cost of fatal and non-fatal gun violence to the U.S. in 2012 is $229 billion, representing 1.4% of total gross domestic product, according to Mother Jones.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police Arrest Suspected Shrimp Thief


Vernon police have arrested a suspected shrimp thief after he went back to the supermarket to pay for the stolen seafood, according to police.

Police said David Demeusy, 49, of Tolland, shoplifted a bag of shrimp worth almost $100 from Stop and Shop on Wednesday morning.

Officers responded to the market at 8:42 a.m. and learned that employees were able to get the license plate number before the shoplifter fled.

Later in the day, Demeusy went back to the store to pay $95.92 for the shrimp and was arrested, police said.

Demeusy posted a $5,000 bond and is expected in Rockville Court on Dec. 15.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

'Nothing Else Tops This': Oldest Ranger to Light National Tree


When Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest National Park Service Ranger in the United States, lights the national Christmas tree and introduces President Obama on Thursday, the 94-year-old California woman will be carrying a special photo in her pocket.

It’s a picture of her great grandmother, who was born into slavery in 1846 and died when she was 102, teaching Soskin all about that ugly part of U.S. history. Soskin will also have at her side her own two granddaughters, who flew with her from her home in San Pablo, about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco, to watch her make history herself.

“It feels overwhelming,” Soskin said in an interview ahead of the Washington, D.C., ceremony. “I mean, absolutely, totally unthinkable.”

Soskin received her invitation last month while working at her full-time job, giving tours at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. She said the honor was “the greatest! Unquestionably. Nothing else tops this.” (The tree ceremony will be streamed online at 2 p.m. PST and 5 p.m. EST. )

Not that Soskin hasn’t had great invitations before. In fact, when Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Soskin was a guest of now-retired U.S. Rep. George Miller to witness the first African-American president be sworn into office. The same photo was in her pocket then, too.

“So, on inauguration day, I had a picture in my pocket of my great-grandmother experiencing that with me,” Soskin said. “And now I get to bring her to this, the tree lighting ceremony that represents more than I can say … and with my grandchildren. It’s a kind of experience that covers years, and decades, and centuries.”

Soskin has had her own share of experiences.

In 1995, Soskin was named a “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature. In 2005 she was named one of the nation’s 10 outstanding women, “Builders of communities and dreams,” by the National Women’s History Project.

Soskin also made headlines in 2013 when she publicly urged Congress to get its act together and end the forced federal furloughs. She said she didn’t want to waste any time sitting around at home at her age.

What Soskin most loves to do now – after having been a social activist and record store owner with her late husband in Berkeley – is teach visitors about her slice of history.

During World War II, Soskin worked as a clerk for the all-black Boilermakers A-36. In the true sense of the word, she was never a "Rosie," because that title is typically held for female wartime shipyard workers who were white.

And when she’s not leading tours, Soskin also loves to blog, a hobby she started in order to leave her family a record of her life, and spend time with her children and grandchildren. In fact, for Christmas, Soskin said she plans to be back at her small apartment, where all her relatives will “trip over each other” and have a great time.

As for what’s next, Soskin feels like she’s happy just where she is and with her accomplishments. And she knows her great grandmother would approve.

“Just being in their presence is enough for me,” Soskin said, choking up, when speaking of getting to meet the first family. “My bucket list has disappeared pretty much.”

Photo Credit: Jennifer Vasquez

Police Investigate Fatal Crash in Killingworth


State police are investigating a fatal crash in Killingworth on Wednesday night.

Police said the crash happened at Paper Mill and Greenhill roads between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

No additional information was available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Pit Bulls Rescued from I-691 in Meriden


Two pit bulls were rescued from Interstate 691 in Meriden on Thursday morning and have been taken to Meriden Animal Control as they wait on their owner or to be adopted.

State police received a call at 8:15 a.m. with reports that the dogs were walking on I-691 East, near exits 6 and 7.

The dogs were causing traffic backups and troopers, as well as Meriden Animal Control, responded and were able to corral the dogs to safety.

The pit bulls are now at Meriden Animal Control and will be there for a week, to allow the owner time to come forward. If the owner does not get the animals, they will be put up for adoption.

Meriden Animal Control said they are “very nice dogs.”

Photo Credit: Meriden Animal Control

Mayor-Elect Bronin Forgoes Inaugural Ball


Mayor-elect Luke Bronin will be sworn into office just after midnight on New Year’s Day, but there will be no inaugural ball.

He has chosen not to have one and will instead join residents during the First Night Celebration in Downtown Hartford on New Year’s Eve.

“(T)here’s no way I would rather inaugurate my term as Mayor than joining the residents of Hartford to ring in the New Year, watch the fireworks and then take the oath of office,” Bronin said in a statement.
Residents will be invited to attend a reception at city hall after of all first-term City Council members are sworn in on Jan. 4.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the support of so many people, and four years from now, I hope to have good reason to look back at the work we’ve done together as a community and celebrate. But right now I think it’s time to focus on getting to work on behalf of the people of Hartford, not on planning a big gala,” Bronin said in a statement. "I hope that those who would have bought tickets or helped to sponsor an inaugural ball will instead be willing to focus their generosity on our future efforts to strengthen the Hartford community.”

Photo Credit: Submitted

Stupendous December Weekend Ahead


Unlimited sunshine arrives tomorrow and sticks around for Saturday and Sunday.

Temperatures will be on the upswing.

While highs are expected to be in the 40s tomorrow, they will be in the lower 50s Saturday and middle 50s on Sunday.

It's still bright and dry on Monday, but temperatures will lower, only near 50 degrees.

The average highs this weekend are only in the middle 40s, so it will be on the mild side.

A coastal storm will threaten the East Coast next week. For more on that potential, click here.

State, U.S. Flags Lowered in Honor of San Bernadino Victims


Gov. Dannel Malloy has directed all state and United States flags to be lowered to half-staff after President Barack Obama requested that flags be lowered to honor the victims of the mass shooting in San Bernadino, California on Wednesday.

Fourteen people were killed and 17 others were injured in the shooting during a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health holiday celebration lunch at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Authorities said Syed Rizwan Farook, a 28-year-old Department of Public Health employee, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, are accused of the slayings.

Farook and Malik died four hours later in a gun battle with police who pursued their SUV through a nearby town.

The shooting is the deadliest since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that killed 26 people, including 20 first graders and six adult school staff members.

United States and state flags will fly at half-staff until sunset on Monday, December 7.

Ebola Quarantines Were Driven by Ignorance, Fear-Mongering: Report


Fear-mongering and ignorance drove states to force health workers into quarantine when they returned from fighting Ebola in West Africa, and the restrictions were probably unconstitutional, according to a new report issued Tuesday, NBC News reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership said in a joint report no one has kept statistics on how many people were put into quarantine across the United States.

But virtually all of them were unnecessarily kept at home, endangering their jobs, disrupting their private lives and damaging efforts to fight the epidemic, the strongly worded report says.

"Our leaders were enabled by a fear-mongering mass media that also ignored established medical science, further stoking panic and compounding an already immense public disservice," Dr. Deane Marchbein, president of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières USA, wrote in an introduction to the report.

Photo Credit: AP

Suspect in June Hamden Break-In Arrested


Police have arrested a man who is accused of breaking into a Hamden home in June while the residents slept and stealing the residents’ SUV, keys and cash.

Police said Robert Jackson, 20, of New Haven, broke into the Morse Street home between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on June 29 by going through an open kitchen window and stole keys to a 2012 Ford Escape, house keys and money.

Jackson fled in the victim’s SUV and police found it later in the day in West Haven.

Jackson was arrested on a warrant on Nov. 30 at Meriden Superior Court and charged with burglary in the first degree and larceny in the first degree,

He was detained on a court-ordered $100,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police

Senator Murphy Says Tweeting Sympathies Is Not Enough


As information about the mass shooting in San Bernadino, California spread through social media on Wednesday evening, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut responded with a Tweet that has been liked and shared thousands of times, but was also criticized as “prayer shaming.”

“Oh god. Not again,” Murphy Tweeted, followed by, “Your "thoughts" should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your "prayers" should be for forgiveness if you do nothing - again.”

That comment was retweeted and liked, but some responded that they found his comment highly offensive.

That message, Murphy said on Thursday, was meant as a message to his colleagues last night and he said Congress members’ responsibility is to protect people by changing the laws to keep “bad guys off the street and keep guns out of their hands.”

Police said on Thursday that they found an arsenal in the home of the couple suspected in carrying out the mass shooting, including 12 pipe bombs, 2,000 9mm rounds, more than 2500 .223-caliber rounds and “several hundred” 22 long rifle rounds. http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/national-international/San-Bernardino-Mass-Shooting-Syed-Rizwan-Farook-Tashfeen-Malik-360454741.html

“What we’re paid to do in Washington is not just send thoughts and prayers. We’re paid to actually try to change the laws to make people safer and we’re just not doing that,” Murphy said. “That was my message last night, that if you’re really serious about sending thoughts and prayers, then you’ve got to be serious about actually trying to protect people by changing the laws of this country.“

The California shooting happened just days before the third anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that killed 26 people. Murphy was in Newtown that day when the governor broke the news to families of the victims.

“There’s an indescribable shock that comes to these communities in the wake of a tragedy. I was in Sandy Hook that day, but I was largely a bystander watching this unspeakable grief unfold,” Murphy said, looking back on one of the darkest days for the state. “Of course, Newtown is still going through this today. The ripple effects of that day in 2012 haven’t left that community. There’s been a lot of recovery, but still there’s a lot (of) unfolding grief and I wish that there weren’t so many communities that have gone through this.”

Murphy said he hopes people in Sandy Hook, as well as other who have gone through tragedies, can reach out to the people of San Bernardino and offer them advice and how to live through this and to persevere as they deal with grief and begin to mourn.

What Murphy wants to see if for lawmakers to change the mental health system and tighten the gun laws.

“We’re not putting more law enforcement out on the street to catch bad guys. What upsets me so much is that the response from many of my colleagues just seems to be sympathy instead of doing what we can together to combat this. Who knows what the motivations are of this shooting? But, whatever they are, it’s going to educate us as policymakers to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again, but there’s just not a lot of people having that conversation in Washington right now and that’s what upsets me.”

Some referred to Murphy’s Tweet yesterday as “prayer shaming” and the Senator responded by saying he’s sent out a lot of thoughts and prayers in the wake of shootings, but that is not enough to make them stop.

“(M)y message is that if your serious about sending your thoughts, if you’re serious about sending your prayers for the victims, then you also have to be serious about action. You have to be serious about changing the laws in this country -- whether it’s gun laws, mental health laws or law enforcement laws -- to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s Tweet came as police in San Bernadino were still trying to determine what they were dealing with and there was criticism that it was too soon to focus on politics.

Murphy said talking about changing gun laws or mental health laws in the wake of a shooting isn’t politicizing it.

“It’s trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Murphy said. “So this standard that people use that says you can’t talk about policy 48 or 72 hours after a mass shooting is simply a mechanism to force Congress to do nothing, to reinforce the status quo and I just won’t accept that.”

Murphy said he wants Congress to spend the rest of the year working to figure out ways to come together around the mental health bill that he’s written, as well as around changes to gun laws.

“I understand that with Republicans in charge of the House and Senate, we may not pass a big backgrounds check bill or a series of changes to our gun laws but I’ve been working really hard with Republicans in the Senate and the House to build consensus around changing our mental health system,” Murphy said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Video Shows Moments Before Calif. Police Shooting


A stabbing suspect shot by police on Wednesday in San Francisco's Bayview District died from his wounds, police Chief Greg Suhr said.

Officers used non-lethal weapons before firing their guns, Suhr said at a press conference Wednesday night.

The incident was initially reported by San Francisco Municipal Railway officials at 4:50 p.m. as police activity near Third Street and Paul Avenue. The suspect, a man in his 20s whose name has not yet been released, was involved in a stabbing nearby a few minutes before officers arrived, according to police.

A video posted to the social media site Instagram, apparently shot by a bystander aboard a Muni vehicle, appears to show the moments just before the man was shot.

In it, a limping man is surrounded by police officers on a sidewalk . Suhr said the video confirmed the suspect "does have the knife in his hand and he does move toward officers."

The video shows a man bent over and holding his left hip with his left hand as he is surrounded by at least six police officers with their guns drawn. He is seen standing up and gesturing to police officers before starting to wobble away from some officers. A woman standing in front of the person recording the video can be heard shouting "Just drop it! Just drop it, please!"

The man continues walking away as one officer steps in front of him, walking backward while pointing his gun at him. Seconds later the camera turns away as what sounds like at least 15 gunshots are fired amid the screams of bystanders.

Suhr said there is more to the incident that was not caught on camera.

The chief said the suspect was holding what he described as a large kitchen knife. Suhr said five officers fired their guns when the man started to leave the area.

"He had already demonstrated, by committing a felony aggravated assault, that he was a danger to others," Suhr said, "so, he could not be allowed to move away from the scene."

The deadly shooting is being investigated by the police department and the district attorney’s office. Per policy, the officers involved will be put on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Wednesday's shooting comes as the San Francisco Police Commission was considering policies for body-worn cameras by the Police Department's officers. The cameras, not yet worn by officers, are slated to be deployed in San Francisco sometime in 2016.

The 2011 shooting death of Kenneth Harding by police in the city's troubled Bayview District sparked protests after the community reacted with anger to a video that showed the 19-year-old bleeding helplessly in the middle of a street while police stood around him with guns drawn and a crowd gathered.

Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Chi. Mayor Supports Video Release


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday the city will support the release of dashcam video showing the fatal police shooting of another young African American man.

"We'll do that next week," Emanuel said at an unrelated event Thursday.

The mayor's comment on the Ronald Johnson dashcam video comes more than one week after the city released dashcam video showing a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times last year.

"It is a step in the right direction," the Johnson family's attorney Michael Oppenheimer said Thursday. 

The McDonald shooting video has sparked several protests in the city and prompted calls for the mayor and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign. Earlier this week, Emanuel fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

There are similarities between the deaths of McDonald and Johnson, who died only eight days before McDonald. The most glaring similarity between the two cases is the dashcam video of the shooting that the city was fighting to keep hidden from the public.

Police said in a statement after Johnson was killed that officers responded to a call of "shots fired" on the 5300 block of South King Dr. on Oct. 12, 2014. When police arrived at the scene, they saw a man who fit the description of the offender.

Police said that when officers approached the man, he fled the scene on foot. During the pursuit, the man "pointed his weapon in the direction of the pursuing officers."

"As a result of this action, an officer discharged his weapon striking the offender," police said in the statement. The man was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A weapon was recovered from the scene, police said in the statement.

Johnson's mother Dorothy Holmes believes the dash-cam video of her son's death will clear his name.

"He didn't have a gun in his hand because I also have seen the video," Holmes said. "I looked at it twice."

Oppenheimer said they have already viewed the dashcam video and noted there is no audio on it – even though the videos typically have sound. There was also no audio on the dashcam video from the fatal shooting of McDonald.

"It doesn't make sense that there is no audio," Oppenheimer said. 

Oppenheimer said Johnson was riding in a car with friends when they were stopped by police. Johnson got out of the car and ran.

"As he was running, other police officers chased him," he said. "Nobody fired their weapons until George Hernandez pulled up in a car, got out and drew his weapon and fired five shots at the back of Ronald Johnson."

Oppenheimer says Officer George Hernandez pulled up in an unmarked police vehicle with his gun drawn. He added that within two seconds, Hernandez shot Johnson as he was running away.

"It is disturbing," he said. "It will be forever etched in my memory."

Hernandez said at the time that he felt threatened, city records show. He was placed on desk duty following the shooting, according to Oppenheimer.

"You can clearly see his hands in the video. He is running what I would term to be straight ahead," Oppenheimer said. "He never turns. He never points. And there is nothing in his hand."

Oppenheimer filed a lawsuit to have the dashcam video released – after he says the city refused to hand it over. Court records show that Johnson has four prior arrests.

Two of the charges were dismissed and the others pled down to misdemeanors.

Johnson's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.

"It's not going to bring him back," Holmes said. "It's not going to make me happy. I don't want it."

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